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Who's the fairest of them all?


ALMOST EVERYONE is familiar with the fairy-tale words "Mirror, mirror on the wall" and their ability to give the viewer the answer to a question. After 18 years in the security field, I am approaching what is most likely the middle of my career, and thus, I undertook some reflection of my own - not on myself but on my past performance. This review included my potential for greater effectiveness and what advice I might offer to others traveling the same road. I have been contemplating how I would define a true professional in the protection field, in addition to wrestling with the ethics issue. Do we have a unique obligation to our employers to be standard-bearers, and is our credibility in ethics and professionalism what it should be?

My ruminations on both the role of the security professional and the issue of ethics were hardly self-initiated. I have counted 47 articles in the last four years in Security Management and Security alone on the topics of ethics and professionalism. While I do not fully understand how professionalism and ethics scientifically intertwine, I know they both relate to job performance.

As a result, I have prepared the following checklist, which is inspired by both admirable and deficient management practices in security offices where I have worked. Consider it as one tool to be used in evaluating how effective you and your security staff are in ensuring a strong assets protection program. While the checklist relates to job performance, I hope it also contributes to the security image and what kind of role models we might be to others.

* Do you provide any explanations for your security recommendations? Support for your program will more forthcoming when the risk or expected cost savings accompanies the proposal.

* Is the crime prevention or security awareness program imaginative? A mix of methods is likely to be more effective than using the same old posters, lectures, and pay slip reminders.

* Are consultants required to produce something new and useful? Too many times I have seen consultants - fortunately more often outside the security arena than inside it - regurgitate input from the customer instead of generating a product with meat to it.

* Are reports of security surveys and inspections issued in a timely manner? If there are long delays in forwarding reports to managers, they might question how serious you consider your findings and recommendations.

* Are managers provided options in the approach they might take in correcting security deficiencies? Flexibility illustrates you have done your homework and are sensitive to the problems others may have in implementing your proposals.

* Is top management aware of your long-range goals? Respect for the protection program will be greater if the security staff furnishes management with some type of milestone plan even if such a plan has not been requested.

* Do formal, published instructions direct employees and managers on how to report crimes, violations of security regulations, or other security incidents? Many government agencies and commercial firms do not have a clearly stated and widely distributed procedure for reporting security incidents. You must make every effort to ensure incidents are reported as quickly as possible and to the right person or office. Complete statistics on incidents can be a vital aspect in any attempt to convince management that protection resources are being applied to realistic threats.

* Does the security manual or organization handbook on planning clearly indicate how and at what stage the security staff will be brought into the loop when the company plans for new operations and new or renovated facilities? Most security practitioners are well aware of how vital it is to bring security into the picture at an early phase of a program. Consider as well how important it is to let other departments know this information.

* Do you normally attempt to throw money at a protection problem - such as buying more equipment, hiring guards, or ordering a consultant study? Look at no-cost or inexpensive changes in procedures before recommending funding for a device system, or additional staffing.

* Is every attempt made to fill vacancies with the most qualified personnel? Using your professional contacts can be very helpful in many situations; however, do not sacrifice quality for a familiar face. Any doubt about a manager's integrity or the merit of some personnel choices can create a morale problem in the security office and cause a negative effect beyond it.

* Does the office appear orderly and the staff industrious? If office house-keeping is poor, operations will appear to be in a state of disarray. If many of the staff are congregating and talking, what image will be projected concerning your purpose?

A former colleague of mine contended that "real" professionals are doctors, lawyers, engineers, consultants, or others that can be held accountable in a court of law for their labor. A professional having an officially issued license, stamp, or seal may be narrowly defined in this potential litigation sense. I submit, however, that a professional is someone who accepts remuneration for his or her job while striving to create the highest quality product possible.

We all have to be willing to look in the mirror. During Ed Koch's first term as mayor of New York City, he was fond of asking his constituents, "How am I doing?" The response was often less than flattering, but he knew he had to get out the looking glass periodically and watch for any imperfections if he wanted to make progress. The security practitioner needs to remember to do the same if he or she wants to discover who is the fairest of them all.

Thomas M. Fey, CCP, is a senior security specialist at the US Department of State. He is a member of ASIS.
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Title Annotation:evaluating your security procedures and staff
Author:Fey, Thomas M.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:Private Security and the Law.
Next Article:The night the lights went out in San Francisco.

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